Lazy Gravy

As a born Jamerican, it pleases me to no end that The Kid’s current favorite dinner is rice and beans with curry chicken gravy. He’s not a big fan of chicken, but he’ll eat a few pieces if it’s in there. Since the gravy is all he’s really interested in from the chicken, it has to be substantial.  There is also The Hubs to consider since he does not like thin gravy at all.  Ironically I was talking to someone the same night I made this about gluten free diets and some people’s ideas that gluten free food can’t be delicious.  My gravy doesn’t have any flour to thicken it and both the Hubs and The Kid love it (and so do I).  The other reason I call it lazy is that I don’t have to go digging around the freezer to find the chicken stock to give the gravy some liquid.  It looks way too simple, but it’s always a hit.  Thanks to the absence of flour, you also won’t run into the lumpy gravy problem some people have.

So, since we’re talking about curry chicken, I have one huge pet peeve with some curry recipes that I’ve tasted.  If not done right, curry can taste awful.  In long slow cooking dishes, it tends to work out pretty well.  For quick recipes, it’s not usually the case.  If you’re making a quick cooking curry dish, please toast the curry in a dry pan before you add it to the dish.   This will take some of the sharp edge off the curry and give it a more earthy and less gamey taste.  Seriously, it’s one small step and it makes a huge difference.

 

Curry Chicken with Lazy Gravy

1/3 – 1/2 cup curry powder
4 garlic cloves (more or less to taste)
2 large Spanish Onions, cut in large chunks
up to 1 cup of any veggies in the fridge (ex. carrots, red pepper, tomatoes, celery), cut in large chunks (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Marinara Sauce or 3oz tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

 

In a (large) dry medium hot pan (with a large base and preferably one that has a cover or you have a cover that would fit it), add the curry powder.  Leave it alone until it starts to become fragrant and smoke a little. Move it around the pan to make sure it all gets heated up, then put it aside in a bowl until you are ready for it.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper on your chicken.  (If this is your preference, you can coat the chicken with the curry mixture like you would flour.  Since this was my lazy cooking day I didn’t bother.) Add the olive oil to the hot pan and add the chicken skin side down.  Check the time on the stove clock.  Turn on your food processor, and drop the garlic cloves in while it’s running.  When all of the garlic cloves have been minced, turn off the  food processor, add the onions and any veggies your are adding and turn it back on.   Puree the onion mixture.  If it’s been around 3-4 minutes, check the chicken (if you forgot to add salt and pepper to the bottom side of the chicken, you can add it now) then flip it over.  Give the chicken a minute, then add the curry to the oil around it.  Add the pureed onion mixture and mix the curry+oil into the onions.  Add the marinara sauce/tomato paste and mix it together until it all looks like one sauce.  Cover the pan and let the chicken simmer for about 5 minutes then turn the heat down to low.  The chicken needs to just cook in the juices slowly.  I generally just let this heat through for about 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, turn the heat back up to medium then take off the lid.  The chicken should be moist and cooked through, but check it by sticking a fork in one of the thighs and looking at the juice running out of it.  It should be clear.  Taste the sauce to see if it needs more seasoning.  Adjust to your taste buds and serve.

Bean of the Week – Garbanzos

I think part of the reason I fell in love with cooking is that it’s not nearly as hard as it seems.  While I love trying new things, I’ve found that many of the things that sound complicated are actually pretty easy.  But, if you buy the finished product you get charged A LOT for it.  One of my favorite cheap eats is beans.   I used to stock up on canned beans for quick meals, and unless I got a really good sale, it was not cheap and the selection was mediocre at best.  Thanks to the dried beans, I’ve tried beans that I didn’t even know existed like Peruvian Beans/Yellow Canary beans.  I’ve found beans that I have never seen in a can like Mung beans.  I even found Adzuki beans at Whole Foods which apparently are really high in protein (and BTW: the bean paste that is used in many Asian pastries) and gave them to the kid who LOVED them.  Now, I buy dried beans for quite a savings in comparison and less need for storage space.  I gave up on the canned beans when I realized that even though the cost is pretty similar for a can of beans and a pound of dried beans, the resulting amount is VERY different.  A 1-pound pack of dried beans makes up to 6 cups of beans.  The canned beans only give you a little less than 2 cups of beans.  If you get the dried beans, you can infuse them with flavor.  Canned beans… not as much.  Depending on the dried beans you buy, they can cost less than $1.00 a pound and bulk buying can be even better priced.  And carrying tons of cans out of a supermarket will test even the best of reusable bags.

It’s surprisingly easy to make beans from a dried state and it requires very little actual cooking time.  Garbanzo beans take the most time of all of the beans I’ve tried so far, but it’s still not actual standing over the stove time so it’s still worth it.  Once I realized how easy this was, I haven’t gone back.

BTW: If you’re looking for cheap garden seed, you can use some of the dried beans to grow in your garden.  It’s worth a try and if it doesn’t work, you don’t lose a lot of money for the effort.

Part 1: Soaking

  • Get a big glass measuring cup/bowl that can hold at least two quarts.  If you bought the 1 pound pack of beans, just dump the whole bag into the cup/bowl.  If you bought in bulk, put the bowl on a kitchen scale and measure out 1 pound.  You can spread the beans out on a sheet pan to look for stones or you can just look through them in the bowl.
  • Fill up the bowl with water and put the bowl in a corner of the kitchen.  (Go do anything else.)
  • Check the beans after about 4-8 hours (Small beans like mung beans soak faster than large beans).  I leave garbanzos for 12 hours or more if i’m busy (I’ve left them up to a day and they turn out fine).
  • If the beans have soaked up the water and look plump, pour out the beans into a sieve and rinse the beans.  Do a double check for any dark or funky looking beans or anything that isn’t a bean.  (If a bean doesn’t look good, toss it)

Part 2: Cooking

  • Get a pot big enough to boil pasta.  Toss in the beans.  Fill it up with water.  (DO NOT ADD SALT!!!) Now, add the flavorings of your choice.  I like to add a bay leaf, a garlic clove, a quarter or a half of a yellow onion, half of a large carrot, half of a celery stalk, and whole peppercorns.  You can add any fresh herbs you want here.  Savory & Thyme are generally my favorites.  [If you want to use dried herbs or don’t want to fish the peppercorns out when you’re done, I recommend getting one of the large tea balls made with tiny mesh and putting your herbs in there and wrapping it around the pot handle or hanging it on the side of the pot.] (See, your beans are already going to taste better than canned beans)
  • When I’m doing this in small batches for the kid, I don’t add a lot of flavorings.  At most, I’ll add half of a carrot, but I’m working him up to adding everything else slowly.  For now, I’m just letting him taste all the different beans on their own.  And most importantly, I cook the beans much softer for the kid than I do for the adults.  This way the beans crack open and are easily smashed so he doesn’t choke on them, even though he has top and bottom teeth that he likes trying out on various foods.
  • Turn the heat on a back burner up to high to bring the pot up to a boil.  There will be some white foam on the top of the water.  Skim it off and turn the heat down to medium to let the beans simmer.  This can take about an hour depending on the bean.  Set a timer to go back and check it at regular intervals after 30 minutes.  If you’re doing garbanzos, save the effort and start checking after an hour.  They take a long time to cook through.  Test a few beans to see if they’re soft enough.  If they’re not soft enough and the water has fallen below the beans, add more water and let it keep cooking.  When they’re done, turn off the burner and let the beans cool down in the water.

Part 3: Packaging

  • For The Kid: I haven’t given the kid garbanzos yet.  I stick to the softer, smushable beans.  I fill up his food containers with the beans and add enough of the water the beans cooked in to cover the beans.  I rinse the beans to remove the cooking water before giving the beans to the kid.  I rinse them off before I send them to daycare so they don’t have to.  He likes to eat the beans as finger food.  For the larger beans, I smush them a little so their soft, but he can still grab them.  It’s hilarious to watch him gobble them up.
  • For the Adults: Grab a container or containers, fill it up with the beans, add enough of the water the beans cooked in to cover the beans.  I add a pinch of salt for the sake of preservation.  Toss it in the fridge.  After about a day in the fridge, I rinse the beans in a sieve and they’re fine to store in the fridge without the water.

I rinse off the water I store the beans in before I cook with them or toss them in salads just like I would if they were canned, but storing them in water just seems to work better.  I keep the beans in the fridge for about a week or two.  If I don’t end up using them in the Meatless Monday dinner, then I just use them to toss in salads.  I try to do a different bean each time.  When I do garbanzo beans and it’s getting close to the end of the week or second week, I just roast them.  I just adjust the recipe according to how many beans I actually have left and eat the roasted garbanzo beans as snack food or for tossing in salads for crunch.

 

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

1 cup Garbanzo Beans
1 Tablespoon Flavoring of choice (dried herbs, ground spices, crushed red pepper flakes)
1 Tablespoons Olive Oil (or garlic oil)
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Toss the garbanzo beans, oil and your flavoring of choice in a bowl.   Toss everything around until the garbanzo beans are coated with the oil and flavorings and spread out on a sheet pan.  Every 15 minutes or so, shake the pan to help the beans brown evenly.  Roast for about 45 minutes or until the beans are crunchy and brown (not burnt).

BTW: This works great in a toaster oven.  If I’m doing it in the toaster oven, I turn down the heat to 325 degrees.

 

Cereal Envy

I make steel cut oats cereal for myself pretty much every morning.  I was eating my cereal this morning and realized I need to draw a line in the sand on this one.  Every couple days, I make food for the kid and package it up in 4 ounce jelly jars.  Back Story: I searched high and low for food containers for the kid and the jelly jars were FAR less expensive than the other glass baby food containers I found on the market.   At any given time, I can have up to 20 containers on rotation with food since he goes through 4-5 containers a day and I couldn’t fathom paying $10 and up for one container so I ended up with the standard jelly jars with the plastic freezer covers and when he’s done with them, I can force myself to figure out how to make jelly.  Back to the cereal envy: I make cereal as one of the kid’s 4 meals a day.  Somehow, my cereal needs serious help with dried cranberries and honey and a pinch of salt and milk to make it taste palatable.  The kid’s cereal on the other hand has two basic ingredients and still tastes better than mine.  I think I’m going to have to start making his cereal for myself.

His cereal is just any grain I have in the cupboards (I’ve done: oats, millet, barley, buckwheat, quinoa flour, amaranth  & brown rice) ground fine in the blender (I’ll go into my VitaMix obsession another time) and any mix of fresh cookable fruit (apples, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, mango, etc.) or frozen blueberries.  I just put 1 cup of water and about 2 cups of chopped (skinless) fruit on the stove on medium to start boiling.  Then, when it is at a boil, I whisk the fruit and water in the pan while sprinkling in the cereal so there aren’t any clumps.  I cover it, turn off the burner underneath the pan and leave it to cook through.  I usually start doing other stuff and just get back to it when I remember it, so that probably takes about 10-15 minutes.  When it looks done, I get out the potato masher and mash all the fruit so the pieces are small enough for the kid and if I need to stretch it a little, I’ll add coconut milk.  If I add too much coconut milk, I just stir it until the liquid evaporates and the whole thing tightens up a bit.  I package them up into his little jars and toss them in the fridge.  His cereal tastes amazing, so I have been known to stand at the stove cleaning out any remainder from the pot.

Why have I been adding all the stuff to mine all this time?

Black Quinoa… where it all started

The idea of this blog came about because of Black Quinoa.  I was leaving work and trying to think of something interesting to make for Meatless Monday.  Back Story: I started participating in Meatless Monday because it seemed like a good challenge.  Could I make vegetarian food for the hubs without hearing the old Wendy’s tag-line: “Where’s the beef?”  I ran the idea by the husband and he was all for it.  He’s a runner and he was up for the challenge of finding vegetarian food that he liked.  I’m not a fan of the meat substitutes so I generally avoid them.  I tend to use a lot of beans and whole grains and veggies for the Meatless Monday fair.  I’m not fanatical about it which helps me check if I’ve accomplished the goal.  There have been occasions when we’ve finished the entire meal and the hubs said, “Wait, there wasn’t any meat in there!  Nice!”  So, when I sent the recipe to a friend, she suggested I start a food blog.  Blogging seemed unlikely for me, since I was just messing around and trying to make quick and healthy for the hubs.  Then in the next two days I was talking to people about the meals I make for the kid and two more people suggested I write a blog ‘cos they wanted to know what else I was giving the kid to eat.

So, back to the quinoa, I remembered that I purchased Black Quinoa a couple weeks ago, but hadn’t made anything with it yet.  I had regular quinoa and red quinoa already, but the black quinoa provided some visual benefits since it looks pretty similar to ground beef.  By some truly odd coincidence, I decided I was going to try to make Southwestern wraps with the Black Quinoa substituting ground beef then I was looking at the hubs’ Facebook post where one of his friends said he should eat quinoa.  I stopped in the supermarket on the way home and all they had was the small wraps so the plan was amended to Southwestern Black Quinoa Quesadillas.

I’ve been putting quinoa flour in some of the kid’s food to add protein and figured the whole quinoa was small enough that he should be able to eat it now without issue so I made the quinoa without any salt so I could set some aside for his food.  I’ve incorporated the Black Quinoa in two different things of food for him since that time: Butternut Squash, Kale & Black Quinoa and then Butternut Squash, Chayote Squash & Black Quinoa.  I steamed about two cups of the Butternut Squash and Chayote Squash in his baby food cooker and mixed it in with about 1 cup of the quinoa.  I didn’t cook the kale since it was already blanched and just mixed it in with everything and covered the pan to let it all warm through before packaging it up.

The kale was actually from my mom’s garden last year.  She grew massive (almost 3 foot tall) kale plants and we had so much that we were giving away whole plants to friends just so her other plants didn’t get crowded out.  At the end of the season when we figured we’d eaten and juiced it and given so much away that people were just accepting it to be polite, my parents started pulling up the whole plants and blanching and freezing the leaves.  My dad minced some and left some cut larger.  I packaged them in 8 oz. portions in freezer bags (yes, I weighed them) and threw them in my freezer and my parents freezer for the winter.  Oddly enough, my parents and I still  have kale left over despite eating it through the winter.  Needless to say there was a ton of it.  My mom grew it in her front yard in between her ornamental plants and apparently it was the talk of the neighborhood since most people didn’t realize she was growing food.  They were sure it was an ornamental plant, but no one could find it in the garden centers.

So, for the adults, the Quesadilla was surprisingly good and went something like this.  (Early warning, this makes a lot of filling so you can throw it in the fridge and save it for later.  I actually added it to a brothy chicken soup for lunch one day in the week.):

Southwestern Black Quinoa Quesadilla


1 cup black quinoa
2 cups water/chicken stock
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 red onion, minced
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ large red chili, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 ½ cup minced blanched kale
1 ½ cup salsa
1 cup arugula leaves
Tortillas
Mozzarella (or any melting cheese)

Make quinoa according to package instructions.  (If you buy it in bulk, then rinse it first until the water runs clear to make sure you get rid of the soapy coating.)

In a medium-hot pan, add olive oil and the whole cumin, coriander and mustard seeds.  When the spices start dancing in the pan, add the red onion, beans and chili pepper.  While they are heating up, add the rest of the spices.  Stir the bean and spice mixture then add the garlic.  When you can smell the garlic, add the frozen corn kernels and kale and cover the pan and turn down to medium-low.  When the quinoa is ready, add it to the pan and stir to combine.  Add the salsa (more if needed) to ensure the mixture is moist and turn up the heat to medium for a short time to make sure everything is heated through, then turn back down to low.

In a medium hot frying pan, toast the tortillas individually without oil.  When it begins to bubble slightly, flip the tortilla and add just enough cheese to cover the tortilla leaving a 1-inch border.  Add a few arugula leaves and about a ½ cup of the quinoa mixture then fold the tortilla in half and press to toast.